“Snowbird”: A hit song by Anne Murray many, many years ago.
“Snowbird”: Any species of bird that does not migrate south for the winter.
“Snowbird”: Any retired or semi-retired persons that do migrate south for the winter
That out of the way, now we can talk about “Snowbird House-Sitting” and how it can be a very viable lifestyle that doesn’t need to cost much for retirees that don’t have much saved and tiny pensions to survive on.
Snowbird House-sitting: A two-way winning arrangement
There is a lot of retired persons that did well in their lives and love to get out of the cold areas of North America when the cold season begins. Some RV down to Arizona, some to California or Florida. Some fly to Mexico or Central America. Wherever they head to, they have likely left a home behind which requires caring for.
In the spring, these snowbirds head back to their northern homes likely leaving their southern residence empty. So often, especially in countries where snowbirds are the seasonal “life-blood” of the local economies, these homes become targets for theft.
The most secure way for these empty homes to be maintained and protected is to arrange “House-sitters” to move into and care for the residence in their absence.
Considering using House-sitters?
Just how can you be sure the house-sitters you arrange will care for your home as you wish? That’s a tough one.
There are some house-sitting companies out there that promise safe, trusted people to sit your house and sometimes pets but some times for a charge. Likely a safe way to go. People you can really trust are a must for you to enjoy your time away.
Generally at the northern end, this is not a major problem. But, what about your southern home? Who can you get to live in your home down there and treat it the way you really need?
Why not consider other retirees that can be trusted. They are out there. There are some that can handle the heat in the south in summer and also handle the cold in the north in winter.
Why would you want to be a “House-sitter”?
First, let’s discuss the major costs in retirement.
- Shelter: Your home or residence is a primary cost that must be met. Whether you rent or own a residence, the cost of maintaining your residence only increases. There’s the mortgage payment if the home is not totally paid off. There are the taxes on the residence (unless you rent). There is up-keep costs, strata fees, maintenance. Repair costs, appliance replacement etc.
- Utility charges whether you live in an apartment or a single-dwelling
- Entertainment: including cable or satellite TV, internet.
- Medical coverage: Government insurance and/or extended medical. Travel insurance
- Transportation: If you own a vehicle is a major cost. Public transportation still requires money and may not be easily accessible.
- Communication: maintaining a cell-phone or land-line telephone
Please note: This list is dynamic and can be much longer depending on your situation.
Are you healthy enough to house-sit?
How often do you visit a doctor?
Do you have a chronic health condition?
Do you depend on medical devices to sleep, hear, walk?
Can you handle living in hot, humid conditions or freezing cold temperatures?
Do you require prescription medications on a day-to-day basis?
Are you seeing a specialist?
You must be able to live elsewhere from where you are at right-now and not place your health in jeopardy, no matter what level of fitness or health you are at.
Many of the places you may house-sit at may be semi-isolated, meaning doctors, clinics, hospitals, prescription drugs may not be near-by or easily accessed.
If you cannot handle, safely, a 6-month vacation in another country or climate, then house-sitting probably isn’t for you.
If you have a condition that is manageable without special drugs or treatments, then maybe house-sitting will work for you
Requirements for House-sitting
You must be trustworthy: I recommend getting a “Police check” from your local precinct
You must be mobile. I mean you must be able to leave everything you normally use and with only a few suitcases move to another area.
You shouldn’t have pets that limit you. Most home-owners won’t rent a home out to families with pets so they certainly aren’t looking for house-sitters with pets (well, maybe some situations it may work).
Can you handle pet-sitting? I have noticed that some home-owners looking for house-sitters, have pets that cannot travel and need sitting. If you like cats and dogs, opportunities for a house-sitting arrangement increase.
You must be adventuress, and able to adapt to a different area, culture, diet, living conditions and perhaps language.
How to begin?
Research! If you are retired, then you probably have lots of time to research house-sitting by using the internet.
There are a number of house-sitting sites you can check out and even sign-up with. I would recommend being very careful of paying money to one of these sites without first looking for reviews for that site posted elsewhere, that will let you know if the site is worthwhile or just a sign-up scam.
Look for blogs that relate to house-sitters.
Look for blogs of Snow-birds that winter in certain areas of Mexico and southern US. These blogs normally encompass a limited area, town or district. You may end up connecting with people looking for house-sitters by checking these blogs, especially in early spring and late summer.
Look around you. What do you need to live in someone else’s home? Not much right?
You’ll need clothes, a laptop or tablet, cell-phone, meds, vitamins etc. Really just what you would carry for a 6-month vacation staying in a hotel, right?
Do away with all paper billing or mailed communications. Set up all bills and banking to “on-line”
Scan and back-up all your photos and videos to a portable hard-drive.
Purchase a safe-deposit box and store all your important documents and your portable hard-drive in it. Make digital back-ups of all those documents to carry with you on a USB flash (you can get huge capacity now for little cost)
Look around you again. How much “stuff” have you collected in all these years? How much of it do you use on a daily or weekly basis? I am by no means a “hoarder” but, I do have a lot of “stuff” that I keep around just in case I need it in the future. If you live in a small apartment, not too much problem, but if you live away from town, you have accumulated a lot over the years.
Time to get rid of the “excess baggage”!
Anything you haven’t used in the last 12 months is excess baggage, I have tools, electronics, gadgets etc that I used way back or picked up in case I might use it for some idea I was planning. Excess baggage!
Our closets have way too many clothes that either are a touch too small (maybe they shrunk? Ha Ha) or we just don’t wear them anymore. Excess Baggage!
If my wife and I decided to sell the house and move into town to a rental apartment, it might take me months to get rid of all this “stuff”. So really, what am I doing keeping all these things?
To free yourself up for most lifestyle changes, it is mandatory that you trim your possessions down to the minimum you require to live comfortably.
Get started now by itemizing what you must keep (be strict with yourself!), holding yard sales, donating to charities, making multiple trips to recycling centers, hiring “Got-Junk” companies to come to your home and haul all the older furniture etc away to the dump and so-on and so-on.
This is just the first installment on this subject. Much more to come!
I realize, after starting to cover the many issues for freeing yourself to allow you to house-sit locally and/or internationally, that there is a lot of ground to cover. I really have a lot of work to do and research to carry out to make this site a useful tool for you and also for my wife and I.
To speed up the process of getting this site to a useful level, I would appreciate your views and experiences to be added in the comments section.